I argue that the televisual cosmetic surgical makeover is usefully understood as a contemporary manifestation of normalization, in Foucault’s sense—a process of deﬁning a population in relation to its conformity or deviance from a norm, while simultaneously generating narratives of individual authenticity. Drawing on detailed analysis of “Extreme Makeover,” I suggest that the show erases its complicity with creating homogeneous bodies by representing cosmetic surgery as enabling of personal transformation through its narratives of intrinsic motivation and authentic becoming, and its (...) deployment of fairy tale tropes. (shrink)
Representing the best popular and scholarly contributions to transgender/ sex studies, and with their mutual concern with female-to-male sex and gender crossing (among other topics), these three books mark an important shift in scholarship on gender and sexuality. Trans studies has reached a level of autonomy and sophistication that firmly establishes it as a field with its own theoretical and political questions. Of course, connections to feminist and queer theory are still very apparent in these texts, and all three authors (...) are committed—to varying degrees—to reading trans identities against the backdrop of male dominance and heteronormativity. It’s no longer enough, however, for feminist readers to dismiss the projects of trans theorists and activists as epiphenomenal to feminist discourses or even queer theory, or to view trans studies as an optional extra in discussions of sex and gender. These books represent the best arguments against this position, and thus offer a new challenge to the inclusivity, scope, and terms of “women’s studies.”. (shrink)
How could philosophy redeem the deepest promise of the discipline to offer an education in which all aspects of the student—intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and physical—are brought to bear on learning and self-development? This grand—even grandiose—question has been asked in various forms by philosophers from Socrates to Henry David Thoreau to Edmund Husserl to Martha Nussbaum. It also finds a political register in critiques of the discipline as it is institutionalized in contemporary universities; feminist, postcolonial, critical race, queer, interdisciplinary, and (...) many “continental” thinkers (who are often—and not coincidentally—marginally positioned with regard to Philosophy departments) have all argued that mainstream philosophy polices its own boundaries in ways tacitly and overtly designed to maintain a narrowness of perspective and constituency that precludes any deeply self-critical analysis of its own investments, partiality, or pedagogical limitations.1 Ask most faculty at most universities to discuss together their vision for educating the whole person, or for making philosophy self- and socially transformative, and few will have a ready model. (shrink)
Heyes' monograph in feminist philosophy is on the connection between the idea of "normalization"--which per Foucault is a mode or force of control that homogenizes a population--and the gendered body. Drawing on Foucault and Wittgenstein, she argues that the predominant picture of the self--a picture that presupposes an "inner" core of the self that is expressed, accurately or not, by the outer body--obscures the connection between contemporary discourses and practices of self-transformation and the forces of normalization. In other words, pictures (...) of the self can hold us captive when they are being read from the outer self--the body--rather than the inner self, and we can express our inner self by working on our outer body to conform. Articulating this idea with a mix of the theoretical and the practical, she looks at case studies involving transgender people, weight-loss dieting, and cosmetic surgery. Her concluding chapters look at the difficult issue of how to distinguish non-normalizing practices of the self from normalizing ones, and makes suggestions about how feminists might conceive of subjects as embodied and enmeshed in power relations yet also capable of self-transformation. -/- The subject of normalization and its relationship to sex/gender is a major one in feminist theory; Heyes' book is unique in her masterful use of Foucault; its clarity, and its sophisticated mix of the theoretical and the anecdotal. It will appeal to feminist philosophers and theorists. (shrink)
: This article argues that commercial weight-loss organizations appropriate and debase the askeses—practices of care of the self—that Michel Foucault theorized, increasing members' capacities at the same time as they encourage participation in ever-tightening webs of power. Weight Watchers, for example, claims to promote self-knowledge, cultivate new capacities and pleasures, foster self-care in face of gendered exploitation, and encourage wisdom and flexibility. The hupomnemata of these organizations thus use asketic language to conceal their implication in normalization.
Third wave anti-essentialist critique has too often been used to dismiss second wave feminist projects. I examine claims that Carol Gilligan's work is "essentialist," and argue that her recent research requires this criticism be rethought. Anti-essentialist feminist method should consist in attention to the relations of power that construct accounts of gendered identity in the course of different forms of empirical enquiry, not in rejecting any general claim about women or girls.